Meet Aideen…This could be your fantasy cover art!


PhotobucketAideen O’Leary-Chung is the Manager of Digital Commerce and has been doing sales and marketing of eBooks for several of her ten years at Harlequin. She will be working with Eleanor on the eBook Store but her main focus at the moment is the creation of covers as well as promotion around Carina Press. She’s an entertainment multi-tasker – within the comfort of her own home – where television plays far too large a role in her life and she often has several books on the go at the same time, one for every room and one at hand for commercial breaks. Working at Harlequin is the perfect antidote for her male-dominated household where she’s outnumbered by her husband and two sons.

One of the aspects of working on eBooks that I love most is creating the covers. It can be both exciting and challenging to put together a cover that does justice to the story. We decided to create several draft covers to illustrate Carina’s range of editorial and give people a sense of the style of our art. Every day this week, we’ll feature a cover in a different genre. Just think, if you’re an author, any one of these sample covers could have your name on it!

Our first sample cover was in the fantasy genre. Mandy M. Roth was the artist and I love it. It wasn’t without its challenges though! In the past few years, I’ve worked on a variety of covers but I’ve never dealt with dragons. Having read about them, I was aware that they could be capricious creatures, but I wasn’t fully prepared for the challenge of capturing one on a cover.  We had our heroine, colors and font at Version 1, but the dragon….well, we auditioned three of them to get the right one.

In Version 1 (bottom left), the dragon was realistic but appeared a bit fresh for our liking.

In Version 2 (bottom right), our dragon was in flight, but the cover seemed to lose some of its mysticism and I questioned his commitment, he didn’t seem convincing.

Finally, we settled on the suggestion of a dragon, a touch of its wing, the tip of its tail…which prevented the dragon from stealing the spotlight.

Working on these covers was a blast for our team. The Carina crew weighed in on every version of this and the other four sample covers. It was another exciting step in bringing Carina titles to life and to launch. And with our recent title acquisitions , we’ve started kicking into high gear on the launch covers. So feel free to share some of your pet peeves about covers and we’ll be sure to try and keep them in mind!

FantasyVersion1 Photobucket

28 thoughts on “Meet Aideen…This could be your fantasy cover art!”

  1. Sharyn says:

    I love it! It’s great to see such a fresh approach to romance cover art. Well done!

  2. Dawn says:

    Any author would be lucky to have it. Great job.
    I’m still on cloud nine looking at my first cover…What a feeling…

    Dawn Chartier

  3. Pamela Turner says:

    What a beautiful cover! I love dragons, so that’s an extra plus.

  4. Jane says:

    I love the version you all settled on.

  5. anny cook says:

    Love the final cover. I’m kinda tired of seeing naked men on covers. Truthfully, I not nearly so worried about what’s on the inside as long as I don’t have to explain the cover on the outside to my grandkids…Nanna, where are his clothes?

    Having said that, I really, really believe (and have seen) some lovely romantic covers without, um, having to explain them–or hide them from the kids.

  6. Mia says:

    Cute, but IMHO I do feel the cover is too dark to be a successful ebook cover…from a marketing standpoint, that is. In postage stamp size it might be too murky to render image or type.

    Wondering how would it look with a bit more color (that purple and green) and a bit more definition of the female figure?

  7. Love the dragon! Can’t WAIT to see what my cover ends up looking like. Mandy, Aideen, fabulous job!

  8. Mandy M Roth says:

    Hi Aideen,

    I really enjoyed getting to work on this cover and watching it evolve. I’m very pleased with the final product and can’t wait to show it off everywhere. :)

  9. I really like the model and style of dress she’s wearing and the font choice/layout. I also like when the cover models represent what is inside the book, ie. matching hair/eyes/type, ect. It makes them feel more connected.

    Well done!

  10. Amy Ruttan says:

    Great cover Mandy and Aideen. :)

  11. Angelina Barbin says:

    I agree the other covers had too much of the dragon showing. It was a distraction.

    I also agree with Michelle that it’s nice when the heroine or hero on the front cover matches the description of their character in the book. Many times I’ve read ‘flaxen blonde hair’ and the girl on the cover is a brunette!

  12. Dara England says:

    I love the idea of just showing the tip of the dragon’s wing and tail. It leaves more to the imagination.

    Thanks for sharing these. I look forward to seeing the next covers!

  13. These are very professional and well done. Great job. Only makes me want to become part of Carina more.

  14. Amy Chang says:

    Wow, I don’t even know where to start with these covers. This is Harlequin? Really? No offense to all the people who really like the test covers, but they’re boring, unnattractive, and I’d definitely bypass them on the shelves. I hate to judge a book by it’s cover, but this looks dull, and it’s pretty dissappointing when compared to the usual work that Harlequin puts out. Is it because this is geared towards an e-book market that it looks so cheap??

  15. Hmmm, well I’m not sure the composition works here. The imagery bisects the cover right down the center, killing whatever focus or visual energy the image could have. A cover certainly doesn’t have to be racy, but it should be dynamic! Since we don’t have stock photos of real dragons at our fingertips, it’s doubly hard to get imaginary beasts to be believable in a photomontage. Simply insinuating the dragon was a great idea, but the poor thing looks tiny and rather cartoony compared to his lady companion. The desaturated color palette doesn’t do the book any favors either. There are three things a designer should keep in mind when creating an effective cover: contrast, color vibe, and creativity. Wait, four things…legibility. (There are more things than this, but these are the bare basics!)

    Yeah, it’s important the cover accurately represents the story, but if the cover doesn’t jump out and grab you from the get-go, you won’t even pick it up and read the blurb! I know this is verging on tl;dr, but I thought as a new company, maybe there’s still some fine-tuning opportunities. I wish everyone juicy sales, and I hope I didn’t stomp on any toes here!

  16. Big thanks again to everyone!


  17. Lisa says:

    Dragons are awesome…and challenging to depict. I think the typography on this cover is perfect, but the dragon wing lacks presence for me and seems to be competing with the image of the woman directly opposite. I think the idea of using a dragon wing is a sound one, but I’d like to see more of the wing itself, possibly with the lady overlapping it slightly. Then it becomes a texture/backdrop and hints at the dragon, but doesn’t overpower the lady. Also, what about a dragon eye?

  18. nightsmusic says:

    I’m with a couple of the others. Why is it so hard (and this doesn’t apply to this particular cover of course) to have the model’s looks match the characters I’ll find inside the book? I have a couple of friends who have gone around in circles with the art departments regarding their covers vs. characters. And they must submit to the art department a paragraph that tells the department what the physical characteristics are plus a major scene from the book so the art department has something to go by. And they *still* get it wrong!

    Sorry, rant over.

    As to the covers above, I like each one for their own merit, but can see where the darker cover might be more difficult to see in a thumbnail view. Doesn’t make it any less dramatic though :)

  19. Sometimes it has to do with the availability of the stock photos, nightmusic. But a good Photoshopper should be able to tailor anything to the description!

  20. Andrea I says:

    I love the final cover!

  21. Rhonda says:

    The final cover was distorted last time I checked (I think it was IE), but now that I can see it – I really like the final cover with the hint of the dragon and the misty/rays of sun.

  22. Just a line to let you know that this blog doesn’t display correctly in FireFox. You need to tweak your .post so it has clear: both as it’s getting caught up between your floating links at the top.

    That’s the web programmer in me speaking, the author says they’re nice covers, when you can see them. When they get small on websites though you’re going to have trouble making out things on them because of the darkness. It needs more contrast.

  23. Angela James says:

    Felicia, I view it in Firefox and I’m not clear what you’re referring to, so if you clarify, I’ll pass it to our webmaster to fix. He was in the style sheet making some changes today because it wasn’t rendering correctly in IE, so possibly something happened during that time.

  24. Angela James says:

    Rhonda, I commented on today’s post that I’d just realized this morning there was a problem with IE (I just happened to look at the blog on IE as a fluke) so it was fixed earlier. If you see any more issues with IE, please let me know!

  25. Sharon K says:

    I wouldn’t mind having one as a poster! They’re all super!

  26. Really, it all just looks cut and pasted together, with no sort of real compostition, some more of the bad cover art that seems to prevail among ebook publishers. The wing looks more butterfly than dragon, imho. There’s nothing original or interesting about it.

  27. I love what I am reading on this blog site because it has two of my own personal loves, writing and art. The designing of the book covers was so interesting. I liked seeing the decision making and the explanation about the placing of the dragons so they would not overshadow the character. Great stuff. And I liked reading what you are doing as a new publishing mecca for authors. Revision classes after the nano race is compelling also. Thanks for information.

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